Building a career in the music industry isn’t always easy. Developing regular, sustainable and residual income streams takes creativity, business savvy and a good deal of tech knowhow.
The live music industry has taken a huge hit during the pandemic. Even the most well-known recording artists and musicians make a good portion of their income through live performances, and they are feeling the pain. However, there are other revenue channels and lines of work for musicians, most of which involve modern music technology.
To meet this need, Southern Utah University’s online Master of Music in Music Technology degree program takes a unique approach to music education. Program areas of emphasis focus on professional applications of music technology to careers in various industries. Here are three professional roles for which a master’s degree in music technology can prepare you.
Salary information for these roles is from December 2020.
These professionals, also known as recording engineers, make the technological magic happen in recording studios. They select and place mics to capture acoustic sound sources like vocals, drums and other instruments. They run these signals and direct inputs from electronic instruments into analog or digital recording equipment.
In addition to managing the nuts and bolts of running studio recording sessions, engineers may edit and mix tracks. This involves comping multiple recording takes; selecting sections of audio for use; processing tracks using preamps, EQs and compression; and applying effects like delay or reverb. Mixing engineers and mastering engineers specialize in these aspects of the recording process.
Studio engineers may be salaried; paid by the hour, session or day. Or they might work in a freelance contract-based capacity. As such, pay varies a great deal. Glassdoor reports the average yearly salary for recording engineers is $74,441.
Music producers have a more creative and, at times, managerial role in the music production and recording process. Their responsibilities can range from providing the artistic direction of recording sessions and helping arrange songs to selecting instrumentation and writing parts. They often oversee budgeting, hiring musicians and paying engineers. They may also assist with composing and performing, creating beats and sounds to use in production.
Music producers rely on a unique combination of music technology skills, business skills and creative ability. Interpersonal skills are also necessary for guiding artists creatively, negotiating contracts and developing professional networks.
Producers usually work on a freelance basis. They may charge a day rate, a per-song rate or a flat fee for producing an entire album. They may also negotiate compensation based on back-end royalties and revenue from record sales and publishing.
Pay varies, largely due to the reputation of the producer. Glassdoor reports music producers average $71,225 in annual income. Yet well-known producers may charge upwards of $1,000 per day, meaning potential yearly earnings well into the six figures.
Sound Designers and Audio Programmers
These professionals create and manipulate sounds to use in various productions, often audiovisual in nature, such as film, TV shows, commercials and video games. They often mix sounds to use together, like dialogue, music, and environmental ambiance. In the case of interactive entertainment like video games, sound engineers and audio programmers may also be responsible for writing code that triggers sounds based on real-time interactions in the virtual environment.
These professionals must have advanced knowledge of sound design and audio production software and techniques, as well as computer programming skills.
As with most music technology jobs, sound designers, audio programmers and other audio engineers working in audiovisual contexts usually charge by the project. Game audio programmers and engineers, for instance, make anywhere from $100 to $150,000 per project, according to the Game Industry Career Guide. The project’s size and budget usually determine the pay, as does the professional’s reputation and contract negotiation.
Music professionals with advanced music technology skills have many options for interesting work. These jobs can also be remote and flexible. Advancements in digital audio technologies now allow many professionals who typically worked in studios to work remotely.